Two Documents Your Estate Plan Must Have Now!!!

Power of attorney

LegalZoom defines power of attorney (POA) as, “a document you can use to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf. The person you designate is called an ‘attorney-in-fact.’” There are three main elements for a valid POA: (1) the person signing the document (the principal) must be mentally competent and acting without undue pressure from anyone; (2) the document must contain the date of execution; and (3) the signature must be notarized or be witnessed by two unrelated adults. State laws vary, so see an attorney for advice.

There are several important reasons for having a POA. For one, if there is no designated agent, the state may step in and appoint a guardian, a decision over which the family will have no say. Also, it is critical to have a financial overseer if and when a senior’s mental health declines.

In practice, a POA is very flexible, suiting the needs of each individual family. It can be “special” or “limited,” meaning that authority is granted only for a set period of time or for a particular transaction. No other powers are given. Conversely, a durable power of attorney allows an agent to manage all the affairs of the principal for any length of time, although it does expire at the time of death. A springing POA goes into effect only when a specific, predetermined event occurs, i.e., the principal becomes incapacitated. It can be durable or limited. Also, the agent can be granted as many or as few powers as the principal wants.

Caution needs to be taken when choosing an agent, especially in regard to financial matters. Dishonest agents have used POAs as opportunities to steal from unsuspecting seniors. We encourage you and your loved ones to sign a POA.

In fact, it might be you who is chosen to take on the role of attorney-in-fact. Caring.com, an online resource for caregivers, offers the following tips for preparing to become a POA:

  • Create a caregiving team—people who can advise you and be the resource you need to make good decisions.
  • Consider all ramifications of a decision, not giving in to what others may think or pressure from doctors or professionals. Choose what is best for your family member.
  • Do some research on accounting, medical terminology, and counseling.
  • Give yourself permission to make mistakes.
  • Know the current state of affairs for the person you will be representing, both financially and medically.
  • Establish a cordial relationship with the rest of the family.

Health care directive

A health care directive is also referred to as a medical power of attorney or an advance directive. LegalZoom defines a health care directive as a “document that explains a person’s health care preferences when he or she is unable to make those choice for him or herself.” Some directives may designate a health care agent, a person given the authority to make medical decisions on the principal’s behalf.

A health care directive is not the same as a living will. A living will is limited to situations when the principal is terminally ill or permanently unconscious. It does not apply to any other situations where medical decisions might need to be made. However, a living will can be useful to give some guidance to the health care agent.

WebMD gives these guidelines about choosing, or helping a parent choose, a health care agent:

  • Choose someone you trust, who knows you well and who can handle stress and emotional turmoil.
  • Consider medical issues and your care options, then take the time to put them in an advance directive and/or discuss your values and preferences with the agent.
  • Don’t assume that a child or spouse knows what you want. Talk openly about your wishes.
  • It’s not possible to discuss every situation that would arise, so choose someone who knows what is important to you.
  • Check with your state about required documents. Make sure you complete everything.
  • Tell your family, doctors, and anyone else involved in medical care who your agent is.

We all hope our loved ones remain healthy and capable as long as possible, but the reality is that they will one day become compromised at some level. Be assure that getting your elders to choose now who will make decisions when they cannot is actually the best way to preserve their independence.

Keep Your Fork . . .

There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live.  So as she was getting her things “in order,” she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.  The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible.  Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.

“What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply.

“This is very important,” the woman continued, “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”

The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say.

“That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the woman asked.

“Well to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.

The woman explained.  “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork.”  It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming . . .like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie.  Something wonderful, and with substance!  So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, ‘What’s with the fork?’  Then I want you to tell them:  ‘Keep your fork.  The best is yet to come.’”

The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman good-bye.  He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death.  But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did.  She knew that something better was coming.

At the funeral, people were walking by the woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and her favorite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand.  Over and over the pastor heard the question:  “What’s with the fork?”  and over and over he smiled.

During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died.  He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her.  The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.  He was right.

So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you, oh so gently, that the best is yet to come.

PLEASE ESPECIALLY THIS YEAR, AFTER ALL THIS NATION HAS BEEN THROUGH, HAVE A VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Accepting health risks

Health depends on a number of factors – genetics, lifestyle, exposure to unknown toxic substances, and luck. You can live the healthiest lifestyle and still get cancer. A few lucky people can break every lifestyle rule for good health and still live to a ripe old age. Unfortunately, you do not know for sure which hand you are dealt. Currently, most people live in a state of denial with their health risks and this prevents preparation for the likelihood of potentially bad outcomes. Wouldn’t it be better if we accepted our health risks and planned for those outcomes in advance?

Doctors clash frequently with patients over “compliance” – that is, following their recommendations for good health or to restore health. Examples are limitless – the patient with diabetes who refuses to give up sweets, the patient with an early family history of heart attacks who won’t give up smoking, or the patient with hypertension who won’t cut out the salt.

We all do things we know we shouldn’t do and there is always a reason. Lack of willpower in the moment, depression, peer pressure, costs in time or money, or maybe we just don’t care. Sometimes we get back on the program and sometimes we totally give up. We are human.

If you have a health risk or unhealthy lifestyle, and know that you won’t or can’t do anything to change it, take a different road.

  • Let your family and health care providers know what you will or will not do to take care of your health.
  • Make certain you understand the potential outcomes of your actions. For example, if you have diabetes and can’t control your diet, learn about the severe outcomes such as renal failure, heart disease, amputations, and blindness along with the minor problems such as frequent urination, thirst, and skin infections that occur. Ask your doctor specifically, “What are the major and minor problems I will develop and what will my life be like as my disease progresses?”
  • Work with your doctor to determine your attitude towards health care. Do you want to receive as much as doctors can offer to mitigate your lifestyle choices? Or would you prefer to avoid the health care system as much as possible?
  • Get the appropriate insurance in place immediately before you become uninsurable – life, disability, and long term care insurance.
  • Finalize your advance directives by completing a living will, naming a health care surrogate, and documenting the quality of life that is appropriate for you. Share this information with all family members and health care professionals who could potentially have a say in your care.
  • Take care of the rest of your affairs. Complete a will, durable power of attorney, and create a list of who you want to get specific personal items. Plan your memorial service and funeral.

It is important to reassess your attitudes periodically. Maybe previous stress in your life has gone away, and now it is possible to prepare healthier meals. Or you have a new job that allows you to take a 30 minute walking break at lunch. Every little bit of action you take toward your health has the opportunity to improve the outcome or at least make you feel better. Life is not static, and our attitudes are not static either.

By preparing for who you are instead of who you want to be, you can decrease frustration with yourself, your family, and your health care providers. Everyone will be more realistically prepared for the potential outcomes which will save time, heartache, and money. This will help you, your family, and your health care providers have a more harmonious relationship for the rest of your life.

Home remedies that may really work

Mike's Market Commentary

Here are some cures for aches, pains, and illnesses that you can find in your own kitchen.

If your Grandmother was like mine, she had a million home remedies. My Grandma would mix baking soda and water to settle a tummy ache, and cook up a pot of chicken soup to cure a cold. Recent research has found that all those kitchen chemists, like my Grandma, were on to something. Many of their remedies can cure what ails you!

Chicken soup: Guess what? It really does work. Studies completed at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha found that chicken soup significantly slows the inflammatory process. The more concentrated the soup, the better the results. The researchers couldn’t figure out exactly why it worked, but recipes which are heavy on vegetables produce the best results, according to MSN Health & Fitness.

Hot peppers: It may be a good idea…

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